Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Protestantism's False Gospel

Keith Darrell echoes my recent thoughts about the doctrine of Justification by Faith, but from within the context of the Presbyterian church's wranglings over the Federal Vision controversy. His post has prompted me to post about this pet doctrine of Protestants.

In my indoctrination as a Reformed Evangelical Protestant, I've been instructed many times by many sources that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is not only the gospel, not only the central issue on which the very church stands or falls, but also the main theme of the New Testament. Uhmm, no. This doctrine is mentioned maybe three times in Scripture. Okay, two and a half, but I rounded up to be merciful.

As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the center of the gospel, matters of first importance. Justification by faith, while I believe is true, is NOT the gospel, is NOT the doctrine on which the church stands or falls, and it is most certainly NOT the central theme of the New Testament. The Lordship of Christ is the central message of the NT.

"Justification by faith alone" is a reactionary doctrine. It was used in reaction to the Judaizers in the bible who wanted to add circumcision to the requirements for salvation, and it was used in the argument against the medieval Roman church, who, it was believed, added works as a requirement for justification.

Today's postmodern America, where anything and everything goes, is almost by definition certainly not inclined to hold to a works-based salvation religion. They have no idea what we're talking about when we preach justification by faith alone. If you ran for office, would you run with the slogan, "no taxation without representation"? Of course not; it would be irrelevant and you would lose the election. We Protestants are preaching a reaction to something that doesn't exist in our culture. Something that happened 400 years ago on the other side of the world isn't of much interest to today's America. So when we substitute the doctrine of justification by faith alone for the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, it's no wonder nobody listens. And we thought it was their fault the whole time.

1 comment:

  1. I think the NT has to be given a new look at in this generation irregardless - and this issue adds to the current problem - positioning of a doctrine which is mentioned 3 times as 'central'.

    I read the NT as a series of books (seperate) and letters (seperate - except Paul's works) - and each has it's own perspective for a community - to which it was written. The key is determining what each book says and what it's key themes are seperately - ex: Matthew has the idea of 'follow me' as a beginning theme - how does this all work in the rest of the book? These are things we need to start determining for each part of that NT - so that it makes sense in pieces then in the totality (which seems to have been lost in this 20th century religion).